Amid reports that the Pakistan Army had occupied some villages along the Line of Control, the Army said that it was battling a massive infiltration bid by 30-40 well-trained militants at Shala Bath village along the LoC in Keran Sector for the past nine days, with no sign of the operation coming to an early end. However, the Army refused to directly blame Pakistan for the assault saying it could confirm it only when the operation ends.
“It is a massive infiltration. But we are up to the challenge. Our men have cordoned the area and we will not back out until we have cleared the area of all the terrorists,” said Lt General Gurmit Singh, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps, while addressing a news conference. He added that the Army had so far not sustained any fatalities, but refused to give a time frame within which the operation could be completed. “I would never like to hurry up the operation. We don’t want to take any casualties. But the operation is well within our control”.
Singh was reluctant to blame Pakistan for the attack, only saying that he could authoritatively speak on the issue once the operation ends. He also said there had been no “significant ceasefire violation” by Pakistan in the area in recent weeks.
However, he claimed that the militants could be assisted by special troops: “From their strength and multiple attack points, definitely there are special troops. The militants are well-trained. It is different from our past experiences. We are battling a nefarious, desperate and massive infiltration attempt.”
Describing the landscape, Singh said that the area was a rugged terrain, “densely forested with thick undergrowth” that made the operation difficult. “Besides, the weather keeps fluctuating. Even today there was lightening in the area,” he said, adding that the militants were holed up in the crevices and caves that litter the landscape. “This is a place where dugouts and trenches can be easily made. It is a difficult area and the militants have embarked on a deliberate operation. But we are prepared for the challenge and will complete the operation as it has been designed and planned by us,” he said.
Singh claimed that even on 1 October around 10-12 militants had “cropped-up” right within the cordon area and launched an attack on the Army. However, when asked where the bodies of the militants were, the GOC responded that their bodies were of “no consequence” to the Army.
Shala Bath is a cluster of ghost habitations along the LoC. All of its residents fled across the Line of Control in the early nineties after some incidents between the residents and security forces. However, on 23 September, around 30-40 militants allegedly sneaked into the area and took positions in the abandoned residential structures. Though the Army has moved in to flush them out, the militants who seem to have occupied the strategic positions in the area are still battling the troops.